As the days become longer and the temperature heats up, pools across the country will become a summer day’s favorite activity. For dog owners, it’s a natural inclination to want to include your furry friend in the aquatic fun. Whether your dog likes to take a relaxing paddle or spends the day making the biggest splashes they can, many dogs thrive in the water.
Unfortunately for your furry family member, pools, especially above-ground pools, are constructed for humans, not dogs. Unlike in-ground pools that have a deck that can more easily accommodate gradual steps and ladders, above-ground pools almost always come standard with a fairly steep double-sided ladder. Pool ladders–especially double-sided ladders–aren’t designed for paws, so your pup won’t be able to get in and out of the above-ground pool on their own. Even with a deck surrounding your above-ground pool, you either need to lift your dog in and out of the pool, which can be very difficult with larger dogs, or your dog will have to struggle on their own to haul themselves out by the pool ladder.
So how can you help your dog get in and out of your above-ground pool so that they can safely enjoy the water?
Tools to Help Your Dog Access Above-ground Pools
There are a few choices available when it comes to creating dog-friendly access to your pool. Granted, some options are better suited for the pool than others. We have summarized the main options below to highlight their benefits and limitations.
Before discussing pre-assembled options, we’d like to explore some do-it-yourself creations that circulate around the internet. The appeal of DIY alternatives is that they are usually cheaper than the products they are aiming to emulate, and there is room for more customization. DIY options are also widely accepted as easy enough for anyone to complete, hence the term do-it-yourself.
When it comes to above-ground pool solutions for dogs, DIY creations tend to be made from either wood or a combination of materials like PVC pipe, pool noodles, and floor mats. Each option has its limitations.
When using wood, dog owners have chosen to make either a small deck, stairs, or a ramp for the outside of the pool to provide pool access for their pup. This can get complicated pretty quickly, especially if you are building an extended deck area for your above-ground pool. There are ramp and stair building guides that you can purchase on websites like Etsy, but unless you’re a carpenter or a master fabricator, wood constructions are generally not the most DIY-friendly. It’s also important to factor in the cost of the wood and supplies, which can add up quickly. Since the wood structure will be in and around water, it’ll also be necessary to take precautions to seal the wood in order to make it waterproof. If not, all your hard work and financial investment could be useless after just one summer season.
While they gain DIY credibility for being easier to assemble, the dog pool ramps, deck and steps made from materials like PVC pipe and pool noodles lose the durability and safety factors. In some DIY applications, dog owners have constructed frames of PVC pipe and used floor mats secured to the pipe with either screws or zip ties to create a walking surface for their dogs. Even though PVC pipe is easier to work with than wood, it is still difficult to create a structure with dimensions that will work for your dog. There are a lot of measurements to take into consideration, and the steps cannot be too steep for your dog’s usage. The steps must also be secured to the edge of your pool in some way so that it doesn’t migrate through the pool while your dog is using it. Even when attached to the edge of your pool, floor mats are not the most durable and cannot prove a solid foundation for a medium or large-sized dog.
A DIY dog pool ramp originating from Pinterest consists of a serrated floor mat that is fastened to (or sometimes just laid over) the side of the pool. Pool noodle sections are zip-tied to the sides of the “ramp” to help it float in the water. Even if the DIY ramp is securely fastened to the edge of the pool, it will not be very supportive since it is just floating in the water. As soon as your dog steps on it, they will start sinking into the water. If your dog is rather large, the DIY ramp will likely offer no support at all. For the most part, this DIY construction defeats the purpose of a pool ramp, as it does not allow your dog to enter and exit the pool gradually.
In conclusion, unless you are an experienced carpenter that has access to building plans and durable materials, DIY creations to help your dog access your above-ground pool are not safe or durable enough for your beloved pet.
While in-ground pools will most often have steps built into the construction, above-ground pools will almost always come equipped with a double-sided, A-shaped pool ladder. As we’ve discussed earlier, ladders aren’t made for paws! There are, however, pool stairs that you can purchase for your above-ground pool.
The above-ground pool stairs available on the market today can run you anywhere from ~$300 to ~$900. The more affordable pool steps, like this option, are for just the inside of the pool, meaning your above-ground pool would need to be surrounded by a deck in order to access the pool. If your pool is not surrounded by a deck, you’d also need something on the outside of your pool to create access. Some of the above-ground pool stair systems feature steps on the inside of the pool and a ladder on the outside that are connected as a bridge over the pool edge.
Others, namely the ones that cost upwards of $800-$900 like this one, have stairs on both sides of the pool. And in our opinion, this particular solution is not very attractive, either.
Even with systems that create a bridge over the pool edge with steps on each side, the rise of these above-ground pool steps is very steep. While the steps that are built-in to inground pools can be gradual as they are a part of the construction, aftermarket steps made for above-ground pools cannot be too large in order for the pool owner to install them. While the added above-ground pool steps might not be too steep for a human to use, it’s important to remember that dogs are not bipeds, they have their back legs to maneuver too. Since the steps are so steep, the treads are also not very large. It will be difficult for your dog to walk up and down the stairs comfortably, especially when entering the pool as it will feel like they’re diving face-first.
While there are a plethora of pool stair options for humans, pool stairs made for dogs are extremely hard to come by. There is this model, which is marketed as a pool ladder for dogs, but it still has the same setbacks as the pool steps explored above. It’s quite steep, meaning your dog would have to climb up the steps rather than comfortably walk. This can be especially difficult or even impossible for small dogs with short legs or dogs that suffer from arthritis or hip dysplasia.
In short, most stair systems designed for use in above-ground pools can be not only very expensive but also unsuitable for comfortable use by your four-legged friend.
Instead of steps, another way for your dog to access the pool is with a pet ramp. If you start a query for “dog ramp” on Google or Amazon, you’ll surely be met with a plethora of results. However, not all pet ramps are suitable for use in your pool.
The first thing to consider when purchasing a pet ramp for your pool is the length of the ramp. The length of the ramp directly correlates to the walking slope once installed in your pool. The longer the ramp, the gentler the slope. With the typical heights for above-ground pools being 48”, 52”, or 54”, with 52” being the most popular, it is essential to ensure that the pet ramp being used in your pool has a usable slope for your dog. Most folding pet ramps on the market fall somewhere between 62” to 70” inches in length. Even at 70” long, the ramp would be impossibly steep for your dog when deployed in a pool that is 48” to 54” inches deep. That is why the Pool Leg Accessory Kit exists.
When attached to the 70” folding PetStep ramp, the pool leg accessory kit transforms the ramp into a pool ramp for dogs! It can be used in pool depths from 3½ feet to 5½ feet, so the most common above-ground pool depths are accommodated. Some folding ramps on the market feature surface with grit tape or carpet. The surface of the PetStep ramp is a durable rubberized tread that is weather-resistant and doesn’t lose traction when submerged in water. Your dog’s paws will be able to naturally dig into the material when walking for a secure grip both in and out of the pool. Since the ramp has a 500lb capacity, your dog will be able to safely use the ramp no matter their weight or size!
While some dogs may leap into the water trying to create the biggest splash possible, others may enjoy the water but be a bit wary upon entering. The PetStep pool ramp creates a gentle slope so that your dog can wade into the water at their own pace. And even if your dog is the type to splash into the water, the ramp helps them safely get out of the pool so that they do not have to struggle with pulling themselves up over the pool edge.
The PetStep ramp’s universal grip fits all pool edges, but the one limitation of the ramp and pool leg kit is that it is constructed for use on the inside of the pool. This means that your above-ground pool will need to be surrounded by a deck so that your dog will be able to access the ramp. If there isn’t a deck surrounding the pool, a platform leading to the ramp could also work sufficiently.
Enjoy the Pool With Your Dog!
As we’ve explored above, you have a bit of choice when it comes to purchasing or creating a structure to help your dog access your above-ground pool. We’ve concluded that dog ramps, like the PetStep ramp and pool leg kit, are the best option for dogs of all weights and sizes to safely access a pool. Because every homeowner’s pool is different, it is also important to take measures to ensure that the pool is safe enough for your dog to access even if it is not surrounded by a deck. Then, you’ll be able to have a fun-filled summer in the pool with your dog!